Central government organisations involved in construction, including various metro rail corproations, were instructed by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to ensure that “all labour personnel/staff” returning to work from Monday have downloaded the government’s COVID-19 tracking app — Aarogya Setu.
While the country remains in a lockdown till May 3, migrant workers, including construction workers, have been left with no work and no income during the period.
The advisory comes as the Union Home Affairs Ministry has relaxed some restrictions starting Monday, including for construction activity under certain conditions.
Ahead of the resumption of construction work, a video-conference was held was held on April 17 by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs with the CPWD, metro rail corporations, and the National Capital Region Transport Corporation and NBCC (India), formerly known as National Buildings Construction Corporation.
According to minutes of the meeting circulated on April 19, one of the “action points” that organisations were asked to implement was: “Every organisation should ensure that all labour personnel/staff get Aarogya Setu app downloaded on their mobile, when he/she resumes work.”
The organisations were also asked to make sure there is no resumption of work in coronavirus containment zones and only workers still present at the camps should be asked to return to work at a particular site.
Standard operating procedures, such as those issued by the National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) for private developers, taking into account the advice of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and MHA should be prepared and followed, the organisations were told.
On Sunday, the MHA issued an order allowing stranded migrant workers to return to their workplaces within the State they are located in provided they are asymptomatic.
Nod from States
Niranjan Hiranandani, the president of NAREDCO, told The Hindu that while the real estate developers and MHA had agreed on activity resuming where workers are living on site, State governments, like Maharashtra, were yet to give their approval.
He added that some government projects, like the metro rail, had seen a resumption of work.
Mr Hiranandani said that while he understood the challenge before the government, there was a possibility that workers living on sites since the lockdown began on March 25 may start leaving. “We are providing them with food and conducting temperature checks, but workers are fed up. They want to work,” he said.
Chandan Kumar of the Working People’s Charter, which works with unorganised sector workers, said the government’s welfare measures for construction workers seemed “utopian and impractical”.
While the Labour Ministry has asked States to provide construction workers aid through their respective Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Boards, he said the reality was that the majority of migrant workers were not registered with these Boards and/or did not they have bank accounts are required for transfer of funds.
“How many workers use smartphones,” he asked.
Trade unions also expressed concerns over the government’s decision to start movement of labourers within States/UTs. The All-India Trade Union Congress said in a statement on Monday that the government had ignored the demands of the stranded labourers who had been asking to go back home.